Despite having set my alarm for pm and missing it, Since our room is luckily right above the breakfast room, and you can hear EVERY noise, we were woken up by the sounds of excitement downstairs. We didn’t get to the hotel until about 1:30am last night and had to be up by 6:30am. Of course, I couldn’t fall asleep until 2:30, so I actually think it was better to wake up in a total panic, because there was no snooze button possible!!
It wasn’t long before we went to work. We had to unpack many of the wheelchairs and set them up. Some have solid wheels, but those that didn’t had to have the wheels pumped up, so Matt jumped right to the task. The conditions were a little tough because the grass was so muddy, but it didn’t seem to stop anyone. As wheelchairs were unpacked we just opened the boxes and laid them all out on the ground to be sure that all of the recipients could wheel themselves right around.
The people varied from small children to adults – some who could maneuver themselves into the chairs, and others who could not. The one boy who stole my heart was about Matt’s age. His mother has been carrying him to and from school every day across the city and because of the time this takes, she can no longer work. He has no use of his legs and minimal use of his arms and hands. Her husband left her because he couldn’t handle the situation anymore. Every time someone wanted a picture of him he insisted that his mother was with him. There was no question that he was as happy for her to literally have this burden lifted from her as he was to have the wheelchair. He was obviously a very smart kid and without this wheelchair he would have had to stop going to school in the very near future. I was holding him as Matt and another volunteer installed the safety belt on the chair and believe me, this mother had to have been incredibly strong both physically and mentally.
The serious expressions quickly turned to joy as people were assisted into their new “cars” as one put it. I was pretty happy and busy through most of the morning, but saying goodbye was difficult. The mother both gave me the hardest hug you could imagine and asked me to please never forget her son because he may need me again someday soon. They know where we come from and it was hard to decipher exactly what she was trying to say. I can only hope that this wheelchair will change their lives in a way that prevent them from needing anyone again.
From there we went to the Beza International Church. When Matt found out that church was more than an hour and a half he looked at me with an expression less than excited. However, once he was there, things changed. Basically, it was almost all singing about God and what he has done for their people, poor or not and what he will continue to do for them. After seeing what he has seen so far along the streets and at the wheelchair distribution, it all finally hit him. He got pretty emotional at church and needed a little time to take it all in. When I asked him why he was sad, he replied that he definitely wasn’t sad. I think seeing everyone come together in such a happy, faithful way helped him understand how the positive attitude of so many Ethiopians helps them survive.
After church, we all went to lunch at Top View, the restaurant where John, Sophie and I had our first meal together. It had a great view of the city and we didn’t realize how hungry we were until we got there! It’s the end of the rainy season here, so it’s been low to mid 70s with on and off rain all day.
After that, we all came back to the hotel for showers, naps, etc. I was afraid to take a nap and not be able to either (1) wake up again before dinner or (2) not sleep at all that night, so I stuck it out despite being absolutely exhausted. The top floor of the hotel is a large conference room where all of the supplies and humanitarian aid were waiting to be unloaded. Matt watched a movie for a bit and I helped unpack all of the dental supplies, baby formula, diapers, clothing, toys, etc. You cannot imagine the amount of stuff 40+ people can bring!!
We unpacked everything, got it organized, then we needed to pack up the goodie bags. Basically we counted out baggies of 16 ibuprofen or acetaminophen each or 8 tablets of antibiotics until our eyes bugged out. We also bagged a toothbrush and toothpaste for each patient so they would get them at the end of treatment. It’s so hard to believe that these people will actually need a lesson on how to brush.
After all the unpacking, repacking and bagging was done, we had a giant team dinner. Everyone was SO tired, but we had a big meeting to discuss what to expect and got our jobs assigned. Finally to bed by 11 for the 7am wake-up call!